The Best Restaurants in Tijuana, Mexico

Telefónica Gastro Park has lots of different options for food and drinks in Tijuana
Telefónica Gastro Park has lots of different options for food and drinks in Tijuana | © Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock / Alamy
Alex Robinson

Tijuana is fast becoming known as a gastronomic capital not only within Baja California, but throughout Mexico. No longer San Diego’s tawdry twin, the frontier town has recast itself as one of Mexico’s cultural and gastronomic poles. Now it’s not just spring-breakers who hop across the border to let loose and party – it’s gastronomes looking to sample artisanal mezcals and tequilas in hip bars, find a hidden cantina serving authentic spicy adobada pork tacos – unique to the region – or eat in one of Tijuana’s fresh batch of fine-dining restaurants.

1. Misión 19

Bistro, Restaurant, Mexican, Fusion

© Misión 19

Local star restaurateur Javier Plascencia’s flagship fine-dining restaurant serves refined, traditional Northern Baja dishes in a bright, contemporary open-plan dining room in the Zona Urbana Río suburb, with big bay windows looking out over the Tijuana skyline. There are only tasting menus, with optional paired wines. The “Classic” comes with Plascencia’s signature grilled octopus and adobada pork tacos. There are options for vegans.

2. Caesar’s

Restaurant, Mexican

Interior Caesars Restuarante, Inventor of the Caesar saladTijuana, Baja California, Mexico
© Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock / Alamy

The Caesar salad was invented in this restaurant-bar in Tijuana in 1927, when Italian owner Cesare Cardini thought up the recipe off the cuff in response to a diner’s request for a flavorful light meal. With its long wooden bar, checkerboard floor and heavy linen tablecloths, the dining room feels like it’s changed little since its heyday. Caesar’s salad is of course, still available – dressed tableside by waiters – alongside an Italian trattoria menu of pastas, steaks and seafood.

3. Verde y Crema

Restaurant, Mexican

Jair Tellez’s regional Northern Baja restaurant in downtown Tijuana draws on the best local recipes and the finest farm-to-table organic, sustainably sourced ingredients, for a menu of classy Mexican comfort cooking. Signature dishes include octopus tacos and braised ribs, washed down with small-production craft beers or Valle de Guadalupe wines. The house cocktails are great too, especially the watermelon and lavender G&Ts.

4. Tacos El Franc

Restaurant, Mexican

Tacos al pastor, Mexican food, fresh and tasty
© Robert Briggs / Alamy

Tijuana’s streets are crammed with taquerias, and none are more popular than this sidewalk restaurant close to the American border. It started life as a simple kiosk on wheels in the late 1970s, run by the current owner Juan Valadez’s father, who was the first street vendor in Tijuana to insist on using only the freshest and best quality corn, meat and vegetables in his cooking. Today El Franc offers a huge menu, including the local speciality, sizzling pork adobada.

5. Georgina

Restaurant, Mexican

Downtown Tijuana’s plushest dining room is popular with a well-heeled brunch crowd, business suits sharing a power breakfast and couples out for an early evening meal. Meals are served in a bright dining room, set in a sleek, glass-fronted concrete cube and chosen from a menu of Mediterranean-meets-Mexican standards, all elegantly prepared – like Sea of Cortez calamari with red pesto and roast tomato, and crab-stuffed ravioli with a ricotta cream.

6. El Casimiro

Bar, Restaurant, Mexican

Beer tasting. Diferent beer in 100 mililiter glases over wooden table.
© Aleksandra Kossowska / Alamy

Local star chef José Figueroa’s gastro pub sits in the tap room of the Insurgentes craft brewery on downtown Tijuana’s hippest street – bar-lined Avenida Revolución. His food is upmarket botana tapas – prepared and cooked to perfection. The signature croquetas de quesabirria (beef-filled tortilla balls melting with Ramonetti cheese) come with spicy salsa macha aioli peanut sauce. There are paired craft beer recommendations on request for every dish.

7. 52 Kool

Bar, Restaurant, Mexican

Decked out in geometric duotone tiles, raw woods and polished concretes, lit by low-slung pool lights and with a long, marble bar and open-plan kitchen, 52 Kool is Tijuana at its trendiest. Chef Oswaldo Flores Lagunas’s modern Mexican menu complements the design – fish ceviche garnished with red onion and chillies, marlin tacos – not to mention superb wines and cocktails. This restaurant sits off Boulevard Agua Caliente in the America neighborhood.

8. Telefonica Gastro Park

Restaurant, Seafood, Mexican, Pub Grub

Cerdo adobado y arroz frito con kimchi (adobada pork with kimchi fried rice) being cookedDon Ramen, Telefonica Gastro ParkTijuana, Baja California,
© Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock / Alamy
Where do Northern Baja’s great new chefs hone their craft? At this arty gastro park off Boulevard Agua Caliente just south of downtown Tijuana. Come with an empty stomach and do a food and craft beer stall crawl. You’ll find the city’s freshest new flavors – from gourmet tacos and botana tapas to ceviches and seafood platters, as well as a full range of beers from Tijuana’s burgeoning microbrewery scene, small-production mezcals, tequilas and Guadalupe Valley wines.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Tijuana with Culture Trip. Or, opt for something more budget-friendly, with a stay at one of the top cheap hotels in town. And, to kick start your itinerary, don’t miss any of the best things to do in Tijuana, before relaxing with a drink at one of the best bars.

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